Employing Disabled Workers Is Good For Business


Employing Disabled Workers Is Good For Business

The next time you’re hiring, there’s a good chance you could meet an applicant with a disability. According to the 2000 Census, about 50 million Americans—about one in five people—have some form of disability.

Even if you’re not hiring, a current employee could end up with a disability as a result of an accident or a diagnosed disease. The possibility increases with the age of your workforce.

Successfully integrating these staffers into your workplace will benefit you and them.

Doing The Right Thing

The federal Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) applies only to businesses with 15 or more workers. Yet many small employers are discovering significant payoffs to employing people with disabilities.

Studies consistently show that workers with a disability “have average or better attendance, lower turnover . . . average or better job performance, and average or better safety records than their non-disabled counterparts,” according to author Mark L. Lengnick-Hall’s book “Hidden Talent: How Leading Companies Hire, Retain, and Benefit From People With Disabilities” (Praeger Publishers, 2007).

In addition, a national consumer survey published in 2005 found that 92 percent of Americans look favorably on companies that hire workers with disabilities.

Another study published the same year indicated that 97 percent of employers who had hired someone with a disability said they would do so again.

When the U.S. Department of Labor’s Job Accommodation Network surveyed more than 1,000 employers who have staff with disabilities, more than 80 percent believed they had retained a valued employee by providing an accommodation.

Providing Reasonable Accommodation

The ADA protects qualified people with disabilities from discrimination when employers are hiring, firing, promoting and so on. A qualified individual is someone who can do the essential functions of a job with or without “reasonable accommodation.”

The point of a reasonable accommodation is to make it possible for an employee to perform essential job functions.

The word reasonable is significant: The law doesn’t require you to jump through hoops to make a job accessible. Here are key points to remember:

  • The employee must request an accommodation
  • If several accommodations might be effective, you can choose among them and are not required to provide the one the employee prefers
  • You need not offer accommodations for individuals who are not qualified for a position
  • You need not remove essential functions from a job or reduce production standards to provide accommodations
  • You need not provide accommodations that pose an undue hardship to your business, given its size and profitability

Accommodations can include making your facility accessible for people with disabilities, permitting modified work schedules, supplying assistive technology, and restructuring the tasks for a given job.

Fortunately, most accommodations are surprisingly inexpensive, with a median cost of about $240, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. About 20 percent can be made at no cost; more than half cost less than $500. And the cost of adaptive technologies and software keeps going down.

To help offset some of those costs, employers who hire workers with disabilities may be eligible for several tax credits and deductions.

The law doesn’t require you to jump through hoops to make a job accessible.

Courtesy of NASE.org